Here's the first in the "Team Report" series looking back and ahead at conference teams.
2012-13 RESULTS: 12-6 in MAAC play (tied for 2nd), 23-12 overall. Lost in the MAAC tournament's quarterfinal round. Played in the Collegeinsider.com Tournament and advanced to the quarterfinal round before losing in that event.
2012-13 RECAP: It was Loyola's last season in the MAAC, after a decision by school administrators to move to the Patriot League. The decision probably cost the program its head coach Jimmy Patsos, who was never enamored by the move in a competitive sense, and eventually was able to remain in the conference when he was hired by Siena. Patsos spent nine seasons at Loyola and took the program from the depths (1-27 prior to his arrival) to some of its greatest heights, including an NCAA appearance (2012), back-to-back 20-win seasons (2011-12, 2012-13) for the first time since the program went D-I in 1981, and back-to-back post-season berths (it went to the Collegeinsider.com Tournament this past season), also for the first time at the D-I level.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: A veteran team had considerable success for the second straight season for a school that rarely had much success. The only other post-season appearance, other than the past two years, for the Greyhounds came in 1994 under the late Skip Prosser. Not only did Loyola play in a national post-season event this past season, but it hosted two games in the CIT (first home-court post-season games), beating Boston University and, then, Kent State before losing at East Carolina, 70-58, in the CIT's quarterfinal round. A 12-6 league record was exemplary, although some thought Loyola might have been capable of even better (your blogger predicted that Loyola would win the regular-season title). Junior Guard Dylon Cormier (16.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists per game) and senior forward Erik Etherly (15.7, 6.5) were both first-team all-MAAC selections, marking the first time Loyola has had two first-team picks in the same year. Do-everything senior guard Robert Olson also had a standout season (12.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists), and wound up playing in 126 games over his career, a Loyola record.
WHAT WENT WRONG: There were expectations things might have been even better, but there was an early issue with sophomore starting pint guard R.J. Williams, who was suspended (undisclosed violation of school policy) for the first 18 games, and he didn't seem quite as effective, upon his return, as he was as a freshman. Then, the Greyhounds lost their first MAAC tournament game, a quarterfinal-round setback to Manhattan, 55-52, a result predicated on lingering effects of the teams' meeting six days earlier in the final regular-season contest. A pre-game altercation with Manhattan players resulted in a one-game suspension for center Jordan Latham and forward Julius Brooks, for the MAAC event's opener, and it cost Loyola its inside strength, some depth and, ultimately, the game. As good a season as Etherly had, he didn't quite live up to preseason expectations when he was selected by league coaches to be the Player of the Year.
WHAT'S AHEAD: The move to the Patriot League, a decision made by school administrators to position Loyola with schools of higher academic reputations as well as new geographic affiliations (the Patriot League has teams in Boston and the Washington, D.C. area) in an effort to recruit student applications from those areas. Also, a new coach in place as G.G. Smith, the son of longtime college coach Tubby Smith, was promoted to the top spot after serving six seasons as an assistant under Patsos. The program's two other assistants under Patsos came with the former coach to Siena. Loyola, though, filled one of its assistant vacancies with former Maryland standout Keith Booth, who had previously been an assistant with the Greyhounds' women's program. All four recruits who had committed to Patsos have opted out of their agreements, with at least two (and, maybe, three) of them rejoining him at Siena.
PREDICTION: Still some very good talent in place, led by Cormier, Latham and Williams, all of whom are likely to be better than their counterparts in the Patriot League, which is traditionally at least a half a step below the MAAC competitively. Loyola should immediately be competitive in the Patriot League, at least for its first season.